Sunday, 3 August 2014
Those of you who’ve read The Divide will be familiar with the griffon Ironclaw. This is a previously unpublished account of when Ironclaw met his mate, Thornbeak.
It was one of those lovely sunny days with no wind, when a brazzle could use a dirtboard and all the calculations stayed where they were, as elegant and sophisticated as the moment you first scratched them in with your talon. Ironclaw thought for a moment. Then he erased the first symbol, and replaced it with the square root of 2. It was a definite improvement. Suddenly, a brazzle-shaped shadow swept across the ground. Ironclaw looked up in alarm. An interruption from Granitelegs was the last thing he needed.
The brazzle landed on his favourite perching rock, which was a bit much. However, it wasn’t his old mathematical sparring partner, Granitelegs. This one had golden feathers and a bright tawny coat. It was a female. “Can I help you?” asked Ironclaw, hoping his tone of voice conveyed exactly the opposite. Hens were only interested in history, which seemed like a monumental waste of time when there were so many fascinating formulae to investigate.
“Are you Ironclaw?” asked the female, coming straight to the point.
“I am,” replied Ironclaw suspiciously. “Why?”
“The name’s Thornbeak,” said the hen. “I’m writing a book about Flintfeather.”
“Flintfeather?” squawked Ironclaw. The long-dead mathematician was one of his heroes. “Why in the name of a cuddyak pat would you be interested in him?” He suddenly regretted using the term cuddyak pat. It was a bit coarse, to be honest.
“He wrote some rather good poetry,” said Thornbeak acidly.
“Poetry?” Ironclaw was incensed. “No no no. Logic. That was his first love.”
“Possibly. I did like his Liar Paradox. I wondered whether you’d clarify a few things for me.”
“I doubt you’d understand them,” grumbled Ironclaw. “Hens know nothing about trifles, for a start.”
Thornbeak ruffled her feathers. “Three point one four one five nine two six five…”
Ironclaw’s beak dropped open in amazement. A hen who could recite the most famous trifle of all? She flicked her tail. It really did have rather a fine tassel on the end. He let his gaze travel to her shapely hindquarters.
“Well?” said Thornbeak.
Ironclaw heard himself say, “I’d be delighted to help.”
The hen looked surprised.
“We could go out for a haunch of something if you liked,” Ironclaw added, surprising himself. He’d never asked a hen out for a meal before. This one was different, though. Very different. She had rather unexpected interests, and he found that remarkably attractive. He felt a bit odd, really. His heart was beating a bit too fast for comfort, and he had the disturbing feeling that Granitelegs might call it love at first squawk.